Saturday, November 24, 2012

Metacognition, connectedness and the built environment

Just returned from a great walk with my colleagues Margarita Iglesia and Jim Newman. We visited the amazing site at Northpoint in preparation for our sustainability course in January. Riding my bike around the site before we met a few ideas crossed my mind. These had to do with metacognition and connectedness.

There has been a lot of talk about metacognition recently among educators.
Through metacognitive process we hope to encourage students to understand why they are learning what they are learning. Metacognition helps us deconstruct the learning process so we can come to understand how we learn what we learn. Potentially all of this leads to a more productive process of gaining and using knowledge.

Looking around Northpoint Park and its surroundings it's remarkable how geographically isolated it is from nearby neighborhoods. Yet the recent improvements in the park have led to very great connectivity between parts of the park and between neighborhoods on either side. Walking around the space you get a feeling not only of expansiveness but of connection with the built environment of the city. All this with surprising moments of visual intimacy.

The site is large and complex and as we walked we grappled with the problem of how to introduce it to the students. With its long history of multiple uses and the current iteration which suggests those uses, why not provide students with a series of historical maps and accompanying images to help with them contextualize the site. Then we thought we would be able to bring students to the site at least a couple of times for them to get their bearings and make observations. Finally, we hope to engage students with a set of questions that will help them frame their designs for the future of this built environment.

So in preparation for our course in January we exercised metacognition in planning how we will utilize the site with students. We also built in a metacognitive component for the students. By observing recording and analyzing the site they will gain a connection with the unfolding process of its development.

This on top of the fact that the Northpoint site is so connected in its design. In a built environment the feeling of connection seems so important. The same can be said for any intellectual model. By feeling connected, by understanding the context of a problem, and by participating in analysis of the problem, we come to understand the process of our understanding. This, I think, is the essence of metacognition.











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